Posts by: Alice Zoo

Viviane Sassen’s New Photobook is Joyful and Tender (NSFW)

This summer will see the release of Roxane II, Viviane Sassen’s newest book, published by oodee. Following Roxane, her 2012 exploration of her relationship with her titular muse over several years, the new work continues to broaden Sassen’s poetic experimentation with colour and form, with her use of other media rising ever more prominently to the surface.

Ren Hang’s Playful Final Commission (NSFW)

Walking down the stairs that lead from a concept store in Bastille, Paris, into Totem Collective’s showcase of Ren Hang’s last commission for them creates an unexpected impression. Little more than a week since his death, I had expected a different mood from the scene that greeted me: a well lit underground space, blasting pop music, filled with glamorous, almost exclusively young people. There is a sizeable queue for a bar making free drinks, and posters being given away. There’s a palpable buzz, an air of excitement; not the kind of memorial you might expect.

Contemporary Stories of the Amazon and its Fringe


Valentina Del Aguila Vasquez, Iquitos, Peru
Valentina Del Aguila Vasquez is considered to be the most beautiful woman in the Amazon. She won the Miss Amazon Confraternity beauty pageant in Leticia, in which Brazilians, Colombians, and Peruvians all participate. The first prize includes an envelope with U.S. $1,000, an orthodontic treatment, and cosmetic surgery at a reputable clinic in Bogota.

Turtle shell cap, Bolivar community, Peru
After the meal, the turtle shell becomes a toy for the children. Turtle meat is a favorite dish in the communities along the banks of the Rio Curaray.

Yann Gross was the winner of the first LUMA Rencontres Dummy Book Award at Arles 2015, and the result was the publication, by Aperture Books, of his first photobook The Jungle Book: Contemporary Stories of the Amazon and its Fringe. As the title describes, Gross’ photographs explore the clusters of community that spread along the length of the gargantuan South American river. As the introduction of the book explains, the Amazon is an agglomeration of cultures and peoples due to its length and the resulting dispersal: “this land” – the Amazon as monolithic whole – “doesn’t exist.” Gross’ project is witness to the extraordinary breadth of the Amazon’s component parts, the fragments that make up a wide and ever-shifting entity.

The Ongoing Cost of the Chernobyl Disaster


Olia and Ania during their inpatient treatment in the Pediatric Clinic of Neurosurgery in Kiev. The 14-year-old Olia is affected by an osteosarcoma, the most common form of primary bone cancer. In this moment she films her same age guitar playing friend, which is hospitalized because of thyroid and ovarian cancer.

National Institute of Cancer at the Pediatric Clinic of Neurosurgery, in cooperation with the Zaporuka NGO, Kiev, 2015.


A fox roams the streets of Pripyat.
After the nuclear disaster, which spread hundreds of thousands of tons of radioactive material into the air, many people assumed that the area around Chernobyl would remain for a long time a dead zone. But meanwhile not only dense forest grows rampantly here. There have also been observed animals, which otherwise in many parts of Europe are still hard to find. Besides wolves, foxes, wild boars or deer also elks and lynxes and even bears inhabit the area in which the radioactivity according to researches is still increased by ten to one hundred times.

Pripyat, Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, 2015.

“You are facing the end of humanity.” Pierpaolo Mittica is describing his emotional reaction each time he returns to Chernobyl to work on his project, Chernobyl 30 Years After. He has visited the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (an area designated to control and limit the spread of radioactive fallout since the disaster) more than 15 times since 2002, and has been working on this particular photographic project since 2014. “Every time I go to Chernobyl it is a new experience. The feelings and the emotional level are very high, because a nuclear accident is the end of everything.”

A Beautifully Honest Portrayal of Post Natal Depression



In Sour Milk, Farah Hughes explores the subject of Post Natal Depression (PND). Such emotionally isolating illnesses are often hard to put into words, and Hughes renders the condition visually through sensitive portraits of women who have experienced it, at times photographed with their children, and at others alone. Describing her own experience with PND as “one of the hardest battles [she has] had to fight”, Hughes is intimately acquainted with the subject of her project.

The Legacy of the Indian Residential Schools as Seen in Photos

Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School
“It was the worst ten years of my life. I was away from my family from the age of 6 to 16. How do you learn about family? I didn’t know what love was. We weren’t even known by names back then. I was a number.”
“Do you remember your number?”

Daniella Zalcman’s project, Signs of Your Identity, focusses on the legacy of the Indian Residential schools implemented by the Canadian government in the 1840s. The schools were intended to assimilate young indigenous students into western Canadian culture, but used brutalising tactics to achieve this end. Zalcman creates multiple-exposure portraits of former residents of the schools and conducts interviews with them about their stories, exploring the repercussions of their treatment. The effect is an overlaying of the past with the present, of memory with identity; the ways that our histories, both personal and societal, shape us.

Tales from the Cold Wilderness of the Russian Far North



Elena Anosova pays an unusual and meticulous attention to textures. Their feature throughout her project, Out-Of-The-Way, is striking and varied; the patterns of a wallpaper not quite the same as the icing sugar rush of falling snow, a lacelike net curtain creating a different visual effect than a roiling cloud of mist above a landscape. Of her textural focus, she explains: “there are many lifestyle details that immerse the viewer… My approach is one of the additional strokes that tells the story of this place, its state of being frozen in time and space.”

Beautiful Meditations on Long Haul Bus Travel



Long distance bus journeys can be dull. Full of people waiting to get to their destination, with rest stops at small, depressing service stations and food courts, buses move slowly across the landscape, night and day. The buses themselves are conspicuously absent from Dan Gemkow’s project In Transit, however. The series focusses on the various characters that find themselves on these buses, standing or sitting at stops in contemplative stances. The photographer waited for a moment in which all means of distraction had been exhausted, the boredom necessitating an instance of reflection, and asked to photograph his subjects where they were, undistracted and pensive.

The Movie Set World of Real Life Cowboys



Karoliina Paatos’ project and book, American Cowboy, is full of things we recognise about the American West. Blue jeans, big skies, cowboy hats; they’re all there, colouring the series with their unmistakeable cinematic character. But in Paatos’ photos we are presented with a deeper view of this world, one that digs into its moments of quiet or domesticity, and so reminded that this lifestyle is not a series of cliches or visual tropes: it’s a life.

Exploring Korean Heritage Through Intimate Family Portraits



Janice Chung is a Korean-American photographer who was raised in Queens, New York. She was brought up in a large Korean-American community, and notes her influence by the culture: “I learned to show respect for my elders and grew a desire to support my family.” However, her chosen path was different from the accepted narrative of her community: she became an artist.

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